Get the Nutrition You Need During Chemo

By Kathleen Engel

  • Get the Nutrition You Need During Chemo
  •  

    Get the Nutrition You Need During Chemo

    One way to feel your best during chemo? Eat a wholesome diet. “You have to eat well in order to heal well,” says Sharlene Bidini, RD, CSO, a certified specialist in oncology nutrition in Dearborn, MI. Of course, that’s easier said than done when challenges like nausea and appetite loss make it hard to eat. Luckily, there’s a solution to those and other dietary dilemmas—read on.

  • Boost your appetite with cottage cheese.
  •  

    Boost your appetite with cottage cheese.

    Solo, or flavored with fruit, it boosts calories and protein intake so you maintain lean muscle and keep up your strength, says Cynthia A. Thomson, PhD, RD, CSO, co-author of the American Cancer Society’s Complete Guide to Nutrition for Cancer Survivors (American Cancer Society, 2010). Not a fan of the curds? Consider milkshakes, puddings, custards and eggs. On the go? Tote snacks like granola or energy bars, crackers with cheese or peanut butter, or small boxes of raisins.

  • Avoid mouth dryness with moist foods.
  •  

    Avoid mouth dryness with moist foods.

    “Wet” foods, like casseroles, scrambled eggs, soup, yogurt and pudding can help, says Bidini, who also recommends rinsing often with this homemade mouthwash. Unlike commercial products, it is gentle on soft mouth tissues: To one quart of water add a teaspoon each of salt and baking soda; mix thoroughly. (Store in a cool, dry place—no need for refrigeration. Discard unused solution after 24 hours.)

  • Relieve diarrhea with banana baby food.
  •  

    Relieve diarrhea with banana baby food.

    “It works well,” says Thomson. Also try oatmeal, she suggests—its soluble fiber can help bulk your stool. On the other hand, you’ll want to avoid insoluble fiber, so stick with refined white breads and grains for now. Skip spicy, greasy or fatty foods, and avoid coffee, tea or hot soups, which can stimulate the bowels.

  • Dodge “bad” food smells with dishes that are cool or room temperature
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    Dodge “bad” food smells with dishes that are cool or room temperature—

    they lack aromas that can make you queasy. Amp up your meals’ flavor with marinades and gravies. If chemo drugs leave a metallic taste in your mouth, Bidini recommends rinsing with your homemade mouthwash before eating.

  • Outsmart constipation with fiber-rich nuts, seeds and fruits
  •  

    Outsmart constipation with fiber-rich nuts, seeds and fruits

    (with the peel on), vegetables and beans. And stay hydrated, counsels Thomson. Adequate fluid intake keeps stool moving through your digestive tract and helps flush the chemo drugs through your system.

  • Avoid aggravating mouth sores with cool, creamy foods.
  •  

    Avoid aggravating mouth sores with cool, creamy foods.

    Steer clear of acidic and spicy foods. Swap apple or grape juice for orange juice, and creamy Alfredo sauce for tomato sauce, says Bidini. “Try cool, creamy soft foods rather than dry foods. No toast or chips.”

  • Quell nausea with small, frequent meals.
  •  

    Quell nausea with small, frequent meals.

    And choose bland, easy-to-digest foods. “Have someone else do the cooking and stay out of the kitchen to avoid the aromas,” Bidini suggests. Ask your doctor about antinausea medication. And try ginger to settle a queasy stomach: Brew it as tea or grate some into soup.

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